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Such were the attainments of these apostates. But after having been lifted up to heaven, in respect to privilege, they plunged to hell with proportionate guilt. They crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame; daringly spurning the doctrine of salvation by his blood: and thus sealed their doom. Better they had never known the truth: for then their sins would have had the extenuation of ignorance; or, it might have been possible to convert them by the preaching of the gospel. But now, after having audaciously denied the truth, of which they had been convinced-after having surrendered their understanding to sophistry, steeled their consciences against remorse, and thus insulted the Holy Ghost; God gives them up to strong delusions that they may believe a lie, declares that his Spirit shall no longer strive with them, commands his church not to breathe a prayer for them, and abandons them to their sin and its reward.*
*This passage of scripture, viz. Heb. vi. 4, 5, 6,—and that other passage, chap. x. 29, have nothing to do with the question, whether a regenerated person may fall from a state of grace. The question to which these passages relate, is this: whether a person, who has heard the gospel, and has been enlightened by the Spirit of God to perceive its truth, and adopt it with joy, may, after all, renounce the whole system of divine truth, and spurn the idea of salvation by the blood of Jesus. The scriptures cer
I am persuaded that this is no fancy piece: but that the apostle is here describing what his
tainly speak of this as a possible case; and too many instances of the fact have occurred, to admit any doubt about the existence of such apostates. It is an apostacy, known to, and gloried in, by the apostates themselves: an apostacy, which the Christian church can see and know, else the general commandment to pray for all men, had never been limited by a command not to pray for such men: finally, it is an apostacy from which there is no recovery.
We sometimes hear Christians, in their prayers, confessing that they "have crucified the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.""That they have trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing." We may not charge such persons with any error in idea; but their expressions are in the highest degree improper: for, they confess a sin, which no Christian, at any period of his life, ever committed: nay, one which no professor of Christianity has committed: they confess themselves guilty of the unpardonable sin. Those dreadful terms are appropriated by the divine Spirit to the most dreadful instance of human guilt: the association between the phraseology and the crime should never be dissolved. The highest effect of the malignity of sin, and the most unrelenting wrath displayed by God in his government over man, should stand distinct from ordinary crimes and punishments. Two important ends would be promoted by this. The man enlightened in the doctrine of salvation through the blood of Jesus, would be put on his guard against the sophistries and corruptions which would lead him from one step of backsliding to another, till he had "trampled under foot the Son of God." On the other hand, tender consciences would be delivered from needless terrors. A mind only partially instructed in the doctrine of the gospel, and disordered by the intense operations of a conscience deeply convicted of sin, and by the fiery darts of the evil one, is apt to aggravate all things, and impute to itself, not only its real guiltiness, but a guilt from which it is free, that of the sin unto death. Let the nature of that sin be distinctly
eyes had often seen. It has all the congruity of a painting from the life. It will have been noted that Paul places the essence of apostacy in rejecting the atonement of Jesus; or, to use his own words, in "crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame;" or, as the idea is yet more fully expressed in the 10th chapter, in treading under foot the Son of God, and counting the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing. How well suited this representation of his was to produce the impression on the mind of the Jews most favourable to his design is apparent to every one. The priesthood of Jesus, as distinguished from that of Aaron, is his theme; and he tells them that they must cleave to that priesthood and its atonement, or they are lost: from that priesthood, now that they had been enlightened in its nature, should they apostatise, though no farther than to the Aaronic priesthood, repentance is impossible; and mercy no
But does he suspect the whole Christian church of verging towards apostacy? Is he so
known. Surely every Christian can lay his hand on his breast, and looking up to the Searcher of hearts, can say, I do not “count the blood of Jesus an unholy thing :" "I do not tread the Son of God contemptuously under foot." I do know that his blood is precious blood.
injudicious as to express distrust, while he labours to create confidence? God forbid that the body of the faithful should ever become the object of distrust and jealousy! The apostle did not suspect the Christian Jews of being generally inclined to reject the priesthood of their Messiah. He is equally above pretending an unfounded alarm, or cherishing an unfounded confidence. The conduct of the general body was such as to prove the sincerity of their faith; and as few men ever felt a keener indignation against iniquity, or could express themselves with greater severity against wicked men, than Paul; so there never was, perhaps, any man, who felt a more sincere pleasure in recognising virtue, and praising virtuous men. He therefore thus addresses them, in the strain of confidence and commendation: "but beloved we hope better things of you, and things which accompany salvation, though we thus speak." A few had apostatised, but the general body had retained the faith: some might be just objects of suspicion, but the mass of them were objects of confidence; they might be weak, might have their doubts and difficulties, but they had given abundant proofs of sincerity and candour. Ch. vi. 9, 10.
The apostle proceeds however to caution
them against danger: there was danger, and he exhorts them to use the means of avoiding it. "And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end; that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Ch. vi. 11, 12.
He concludes by holding out the most decided hopes of success, to animate their exertions. He reminds them of the promise of God to their father Abraham, afterwards confirmed by an oath which promise, and oath, says he, are two immutable securities, that we might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us: which hope we have, as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail, whither the forerunner is for us entered. Ch. vi. 13.-20.
Having thus raised an high idea of the importance of his theme:-having humbled their pride, by reflecting on the deficiency of their knowledge:-having alarmed their fears, by the danger of apostacy :-conciliated their benevolence, by avowing his conviction of the sincerity of their Christian faith:-and animated them with hopes derived from the covenant faithfulness of their God-he resumes the subject